Image of a clinician/healthcare worker with mask

In the high-stress field of healthcare, with high burnout rates, relief may be in sight. A recent study published in the JAMA Network reveals healthcare professionals who practiced transcendental meditation (TM) for three months experienced significant reductions in chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety and emotional exhaustion.

Chronic workplace stress is the culprit of burnout, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms include feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from the job or negativism and reduced professional efficacy. Burnout not only severely impacts health care workers, but also health care organizations and patients through rapid employee turnover, limited patient access and care, and increased health care expenditures.

A recent national survey of 20,000 healthcare workers revealed that nearly half were experiencing burnout, and 38% were suffering from anxiety and depression. The survey found stress scores highest among nursing assistants, medical assistants and social workers.

How does transcendental meditation work?

Transcendental meditation, also known as TM for short, involves using meditation and a single mantra, repeated silently, to remain conscious while settling the mind. In similar studies, the practice has been shown to be effective at minimizing anxiety, managing stress and even lowering blood pressure for teachers, emergency medicine clinicians and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Training in mind-body techniques can counter the effects of employee stress and burnout as a tool to overcome the “fight or flight” response to chronic stressors. TM is among the most widely studied meditation and relaxation programs in the United States. Performed while seated in a comfortable position, ideally for 20 minutes twice a day, the technique involves the effortless use of a sound without meaning (mantra), which allows the mind to settle to quieter levels of thought and evoke deep relaxation.